Primarily, hacking was used in the "good old days" for learning information about systems and IT in general. In recent years, thanks to a few villain actors, hacking has taken on dark connotations. Conversely, many corporations employ hackers to test the strengths and weaknesses of their own systems. These hackers know when to stop, and the positive trust they build earns them a large salary.
What are hackers?
Hackers are people who try to gain unauthorized access to your computer. This is normally done through the use of a 'backdoor' program installed on your machine. You can protect yourself from these by using a firewall and a good up-to-date anti-virus program. You would normally get such a backdoor program by opening an E-mail attachment containing the backdoor program.
Why do hackers hack?
To a hacker, breaking into someoneís computer is simply a challenge. They may not specifically intend to do damage to the computer. The thrill of simply gaining access is often enough. Hackers often try to show off their skills to the world by hacking into government computers, or as revenge against another user or agency. Hackers are indeed as the stereotype depicts them as; young males with a thirst for knowledge. Despite rumours, all hackers do not wear nerdy glasses.
What damage can a hacker do?
This depends upon what backdoor program(s) are hiding on your PC. Different programs can do different amounts of damage. However, most allow a hacker to smuggle another program onto your PC. This means that if a hacker can't do something using the backdoor program, he can easily put something else onto your computer that can. Hackers can see everything you are doing, and can access any file on your disk. Hackers can write new files, delete files, edit files, and do practically anything to a file that could be done to a file. A hacker could install several programs on to your system without your knowledge. Such programs could also be used to steal personal information such as passwords and credit card information. Some backdoor programs even allow a hacker to listen in on your conversations using your computer's microphone if one is attached!
Types of hackers
Hackers often can be characterized by their motives. The following are the more common types of hackers and the motives they cite:
Pranksters: These hackers are the mischief-makers of the bunch whose intention is merely to be a nuisance. They are the equivalent of individuals who pull fire alarms or make phony bomb threats. Copycat hackers would also fall into this category.
Fame seekers: This group hacks seeking attention or notoriety. Using a code name, these individuals target high-profile sites such as Yahoo!, eBay, or NASA to achieve bragging rights among their peers.
Educational: Students justify hacking into systems by saying that they are honing their programming skills.
Criminals: When bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he replied: "Thatís where the money is." Stored data or "data at rest" is more profitable to steal than data moving over the Internet. Why steal one credit card number at a time when you can steal tens of thousands to millions with one break-in? This happened to CDUniverse and RealNames. Pacific Bell had to have more than 60,000 customers change their passwords after hackers stole them.
What constitutes hacking?
Computer fraud is the legal term for a large part ofwhat most consider hacking. Another form of hacking is the illegal seizure and unathorized use of credit card numbers.
Cases that have helped to shape the law
Kevin Mitnick was arrested for stealing credit card numbers and for gaining illegal entry into numerous systems via the internet.
Ed Cummings was the first person in the United States to be imprisoned for possession of a red box.
Craig Neidorf, an employee of Bellsouth, was arrested for distributing information that was thought to have been illegally obtained from the comp any.
Advice on Protecting your PC
Don't let other people onto your computer unless you really trust them. A great way to do this is to password-protect your computer.
Don't ever open attachments. Avoid Trojan horses and viruses by following this rule.
Turn off file sharing if you don't need it. If a port scan is done on your computer, a hacker may find a back door to your machine and access your files.
Use an antivirus program and keep it up to date.
If you have a constant Internet connection, use a firewall.
Routinely update Windows software. This is extremely important. Updates fix many bugs and known security holes within the Windows operating system.
Every day there are new developments. New products are launched and new product ideas and applications of information technology evolve. Recently after dual core processors, now quad core processors for PCs are being launched etc.
Letís talk some more about such developments.
Nowhere is new technology more evident than in the computers we use. Right now we're in the process of moving from mouse, finger and keyboard control to voice and body movement control. At the same time, we're also transitioning from the era of localized software and data access to a new age where everything will be found online in the cloud. Also, we'll very soon likely see 3D become the new standard for computers, handheld devices and television, and soon may even have folding screens. We'll also likely be inundated in the near term with ultraportable laptops competing with iPads and other handheld devices.
Cars - Another area of technological change revolves around our cars and how we use them and really big changes are happing right now. From GPS computers that help us reach our destination to devices that help us avoid accidents and even park our cars for us, computers are revolutionizing the driving experience. Next up will be computerized heads-up devices that display information on our dashboards or goggles we wear to identify real world information around us. Very soon we will be able to identify everything and everyone around us, without having to reach for our Smartphone.
Robots - It seems every day brings news of new developments in robotics, from warm and fuzzy electronic companions, to eerily human looking dolls, to big monsters meant for war, robotics has progressed to the point that we will likely very soon have one or more in our home helping us do those things we don't like doing.
Television - Just as we have moved from CRT to HDTV, we are now on the precipice of another change that will be just as big. Internet ready television is about to get smarter, with new features that users have grown used to when watching video on their computers such as the ability to search for content or to chat via Skype. Also, pretty soon we might be able to throw out our remotes because all we'll have to do is wave at the TV to have it do our bidding.
Physics - As unglamorous as physics may sound, it quite often leads to breakthroughs that truly do make a difference in our lives. One area in particular, carbon nanotubes, only recently discovered, is likely to lead to changes we may have thought would never really happen, such as the development of an invisibility cloak.
Regardless of the area, one thing we can all count on when it comes to technology is newer, cooler and smarter devices designed to make our lives easier and perhaps a little more fun.